Argentina’s captain and top scorer Lionel Messi began his fifth World Cup in style on Tuesday with a 10th minute penalty against Saudi Arabia as he embarked on his final quest for the only major trophy that has eluded him.
Messi, 35, who also nearly scored with a shot from inside the box in the opening minutes at the Lusail Stadium, celebrated joyfully after sending Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed al-Owais the wrong way with his coolly-dispatched penalty.
Messi shrugged off some fatigue niggles to lead the line on Tuesday in the Group C opener where he has begun his last quest for an elusive World Cup trophy.
With Paulo Dybala still not recovered from injury, Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria were up front with Messi in a star-studded team who are one of the favorites to win in Qatar.
Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard kept captain and midfielder Salman al-Faraj in the team despite a recent shoulder injury. He has been a cornerstone of al-Hilal’s dominance of Asian club football in recent years.
Their team is entirely home-based, with the local league’s financial clout ensuring few leading players aspire to play overseas.
Following are the teams:
Emeliano Martinez, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Tagliafico Nicolas Otamendi, Nahuel Molina, Alejandro Gomez, Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Lionel Messi (c), Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria.
Mohamed al-Owais, Ali al-Bulaihi, Yasser al-Shahrani, Mohamed Kanno, Saud Abdulhamid, Abdulelah al-Malki, Saleh al-Shehri, Hassan al-Tambakti, Salman al-Faraj (c), Salem al-Dawsari, Firas al-Buraikan.